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54 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·

OK, the thread title is a bit presumptuous (or not!)

This is the build project of my new ride built for me by Tom Fowler and his wonderful team at OPM Autosports. I have condensed the story and photos here on this thread, but you can see ALL the photos and the entire build thread here at Best Damn Spec Miata, Period V3.

Hopefully the photos here will be able to do justice to the amazing work done by the entire team at OPM Autosports.

Thanks to Tom, Ryan, Mikel, Tracy and everyone at OPM Autosports in Georgia for building a really awesome car. You guys are the best. I know how much time you put into this over this past few months and it shows. And thanks for taking such great photos during the build to document the progress. Thanks for your dedication – much appreciated!

This car is a testament to their unwavering attention to detail. Ryan, Tom and the team worked countless nights on the small details, and unfortunately the pictures cannot begin to show the amount of work that it takes to do a build of this quality.


The car below pictured below was the second car that OPM built for me, and became the reference from which the new build would emerge. This photo was taken at its debut at VIR in April 2010.


Tom's mission was simple:- Improve on version 2, make it prettier and make it lighter to meet the new Spec Miata class weight limit.

For those of you who saw the my previous build on the old Spec Miata Forum, you might remember it started with a concept originating from my wife Kim who always says “Danny, it’s not how good you are, it’s how good you look!”. Well the previous build obviously nailed it as it was not only fast, but photographs of the old 39 car appeared in many magazines over the past two years, and resulted in significant exposure to my business and to those of my sponsors.

And this is what Version 3 of the best Damn Spec Miata looks like - read on to follow the build log.


Fowler made contact with all his suppliers and found a high mileage '99 donor in silver and tan that had a blown engine, with zero frame rail damage. In fact the car body panels were almost perfect except for a few door dings. The crew at OPM set to the task of stripping it out to an empty tub. This unpleasant job takes lots of time, patience and a few skinned knuckles.


In the previous build, Tom and Robinson Racing collaborated on making some new improvements to their tried and tested design. With this build, Robinson further improved the design of the main hoop gusseting, further improving cage integrity and strength, while at the same time reducing the weight and center of gravity. We also removed the Petty bar to save weight. Robinson’s cage work is exceptional. The welds are beyond excellent; the penetrations through the parcel shelf and dashboard cutouts are incredibly tight with no gaps at all between the lower door bar and the side sills. I have seen a Robinson caged car that have hit a concrete wall at over 100mph, and while while the unibody was bucked right through the transmission tunnel, the cage didn't even have a crack in the paint on he welds, and most importantly, the driver walked away.


OPM completely went over everything in the gearbox, differential, prop shafts and half shafts. Joe is the man there, and did a tremendous job on freeing up our components. This new car rolls in the breeze! The full Mazda comp package was installed. We fitted new bushings, shocks, calipers, rotors, hoses, as well as a new steering box.


After hearing about and seeing one-too-many side impact rib fracture videos, I was adamant about installing a full shoulder containment seat. Most seats offer adequate hip and lower body containment, and those with halos constrain the head movement, but the heaviest part of the body is the torso, and unless contained, the heavy torso will move with huge energy transfer, often cracking the ribs on the lower seat rail, so its critical to contain the shoulders to stop the torso from moving.

At the PIR show in Orlando I sat in every seat I could and settled on the Racetech RT9129HRW. While the overall dimensions appear no larger than the original Racetech RT4009HR seat I have used for the past 4 seasons, the shoulder restraint reinforcing bar unfortunately does get in the way of the main cage hoop and requires significant finessing to be able to move the seat far enough back for optimum seating position and fast egress.


The previous blue and orange color scheme stood out so well on the track that I wanted to stay with the same color palette, but in a fresh new design. My graphic designer David and I played on the computer looking for at cars from other racing series and how they use the body real estate for graphics and marketing. It was also critical to make sure the car looks fast even when standing still.

We had to go to a new fluorescent orange color as House of Kolors stopped making the previous fluorescent Honey/Orange. I think the new design works. It certainly is bright.
A big thanks to Glenn and Vic for the excellent job on the paint. The quality is amazing, better than you will see on many cars on a showroom floor. The entire car is base coat / clear coat, even the interior which we did in silver to show well, and we did the matte black cage detail again.

These photos should give you some idea of the tremendous amount of masking and preparation that goes into painting the cage a different color from the interior.

The exterior gets prepared for the paint booth

Coming out of the paint booth the car was literally glowing and lit up the entire shop. Without any graphics the car looked way too orange but I was confident that the addition of the graphics would tone down the color and add the detail to make it look fast.

All of the colors you see is in the images above are painted. The idea is to detail the final graphics with vinyl decals. Tiffany at FishHead Graphics did a super job with the graphics and the overall combination is a stunner. Thanks Tiffany


What can I say? I really like Mike Rossini and I like his engines. Rossini Racing Engines have powered me to many championships and many national wins including victories in the the June Sprints and two ARRCs, and we were a front runner for the Runoffs too. Sure we continually want more horsepower and we often hear numbers that make us go "huh?", but my Rossini engines have been fast and reliable and Mike stands behind his product, and you can’t ask anything more from your engine builder.

Of course Ryan, Mikel and the guys at OPM detailed the entire engine bay so it looks like a new car off the showroom floor.

Here are some photos of Mike Rossini working his considerable magic on his portable dyno. If you are looking for a winning Spec Miata builder, Call Mike Rossini at (336) 595-3413


The obvious question to ask is "What did it cost"?

Way more than necessary but less than you would think. Much of the stuff is purely for appearances sake and the build could have been done for less, but we wanted a show car that would stand out, and I hope we pulled it off. I look forward to all your comments…..

Tom Fowler at OPM is in the business of building championship winning race cars, and whether you are looking for a budget racer or a top shelf show car, he would love to chat with you. Just call Tom at (770) 886-8199.


Thanks to all my sponsors and to all those that have offered advice and assistance during this build.
OPM Autosports - Tom Fowler (770) 886-8199
Rossini Racing Engines - Mike Rossini (336) 595-3413
Traqmate Data - Glenn Stephens (877) 289-0312

Supporting Member
286 Posts
Nice build but it essentially looks like every spec miata lol, given the title I was a bit let down.
I built my own Spec Miata and have raced against OPM when they bring their fleet of cars to Mid Ohio. I can say from firsthand experience that their cars are top quality and look and perform better than most of the rust buckets that are in our fields. They may all look the same at 75mph from 100 feet away, but the difference is in the details. Most dont have a cage like that, most aren't totally painted, most don't have all new components, etc etc.

The attention to detail is superb, and in talking with one of their rental drivers last year, their team really takes care of their people.

So maybe the title is a little enthusiastic, but my hat's off to a great build from a solid group of people.

54 Posts
Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Nice build but it essentially looks like every spec miata lol, given the title I was a bit let down.
Sorry to let you down Robert!!!!! :)

54 Posts
Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Thanks to all of you for the props!!!

Regarding keeping it shiny....yup, Spec Miata is referred to as Spec Pinata / Wreck Miata / and many other names for a reason.

SM cars are so close in terms of performance, drivers are so close in terms of talent and we have the largest fields in SCCA national racing......and that all creates a very combustible mix of too many people trying to squeeze through the same turn at the same time.

When you build a car this pretty for SM, you know up front that you will be spending money on keeping it looking this way, no way to avoid it.

But if you build it this well, keep it looking this good, and keep on putting it on the podium each weekend, when it comes time to sell it you will get all your money back. (not normal for race cars at all).

Plus you get that reassuring feeling every time you drive a car that makes you feel good just looking at it!!!

Official Armchair Racer
14,632 Posts
Gorgeous build! Share some videos with us!

sick spec miata but the wheels...
What happened to Ben's Team Dynamics is not surprising at all. He left the track at triple digit speeds (if I'm not mistaken) sideways, wheels dug in, barrel was wrenched from the hub/spokes. No surprise there: physics>any wheel.

Big Pimpin'
11,480 Posts
No surprise there: physics>any wheel.
Not old school JDM wheels. Those are made out of unicorn bone, which happens to be a naturally occurring super strong aluminum material :fab:
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